(1) Absolute Conjunct Absolute Conjunct Sg. 1. biru ·biur Pl. 1. berm(a)i ·beram 2. biri ·bir 2. beirthe ·berid -ith 3. berid -ith ·beir 3. ber(a)it ·beratThis paper argues that the distribution of these endings reflects clause structure, specifically whether CP is projected:
(2) Conjunct endings appear when CP is projected, while absolute endings appear in minimal clauses projecting only to IP.
This proposal is supported not only by clauses in which C is overt, but also by a variety of apparently disparate sentence-types, including imperatives and (residual) Verb Second sentences. Traditional grammars report that conjunct forms typically appear after the class of 'conjunct particles':
(3) ní NEG in INTERROGATIVE co / con so that dia if ara in order that (GOI 28)As these particles are presentential, stressless proclitics which introduce different clause-types, it is clear that they belong to the complementizer class. The use of the conjunct paradigm after these particles, as in (4) below therefore straightforwardly follows from (2) above:
(4)a. beirid 'he carries' b. ní·beir 'he does not carry'Imperative sentences also provide further evidence for (2). Imperatives in Old Irish are not introduced by a preverbal particle and distinguish only one set of endings, which are almost identical to the conjunct endings in (1) above. Assuming that CP is projected in imperatives (e.g. following Potsdam 1996), these facts follow from the generalization in (2). Old Irish makes extensive use of compound verbs, consisting of a verbal root compounded with one or more prepositional preverbs (which radically and unpredictably change the lexical meaning):
(5) gairid calls¹ V do·gair summons¹ P·VCONJ (*do·gairidABS) for·cum-gair commands¹ P·PVCONJ (*for·cum-gairidABS) do·air-n-gair promises¹ P·PPVCONJ (*do·air-n-gairidABS)It is remarkable that the verbal root in these compounds exclusively takes the conjunct endings, as illustrated above. These facts indicate that compound verbs necessarily involve the projection of CP: in particular, that the preverbs are associated with the CP projection. There is strong evidence for this position from the behavior of preverbs in embedded contexts. Old Irish lacks a subordinating complementizer, but often uses initial mutation (nasalization) as a marker of subordination in complement and relative clauses. It is remarkable that in the case of an embedded compound verb, subordinating nasalization appears to the right of the initial preverb:
(6) epert frissom rondbiad fáilte libsi (Wb. 16b19) say.INF to.him PRT.will.be joy with.you to say to him that there will be joy with you.¹Assuming that subordinating nasalization is associated with the CP projection, this fact indicates the presence of (at least the leftmost) preverb in CP. The obligatory use of conjunct endings in compound verbs then follows straightforwardly from (2). Finally, although Old Irish is generally a strict VSO language (as is Modern Irish), many residues of an earlier V2 stage remain, e.g. the archaism known traditionally as 'Bergin's construction' (Bergin 1938, Doherty 1997):
(7)a. [ lÇithe Gailïoin ] gabsat inna lÇmaib lÇigne warriors Gailïon.GEN gabaid.3PL.PRET.CONJ in.their hands.DAT spears The Galïon warriors took spears in their hands.¹ b. [ BÇngluinn ] gn¥ glenn gaeth. bloodless.deed gníid.3SG.PRES.CONJ valleys.GEN wind The wind of the valleys does a bloodless deed¹ c. [ srethaib sluag ] soí Crimthan Coscrach cing cét catha lines.DAT hosts sóïd.3SG.PRET.CONJ C. victorious champion 100 battles With lines of hosts C. the Victorious the champion won (turned) a hundred battles.¹These clauses are remarkable in that the verb appears in the conjunct form, although it is not preceded by an overt complementizer. Under the generalization in (2), however, these facts follow straightforwardly, as the standard analysis of V2 involves the projection of CP. In later language, absolute endings are found in V2 sentences, (8) below, however:
(8) Láir dano bói i ndorus in tige trogais da lurchuire mare moreover be.3SG.REL.PRET in door the house trogaid.3SG.PRET.ABS two foals A mare which was before the house dropped two foals¹This follows assuming that the V2 position shifted to Spec of IP. Note that Spec of IP is an A´-position under the analysis of Irish clause structure advanced in McCloskey's work (e.g. McCloskey 1996). Therefore, V2 sentences in a VSO language provide no evidence for the projection of CP, as Spec IP is available as the V2 Topic position. A process of language change whereby V2 sentences were reanalyzed as IP accounts straightforwardly for the use of absolute endings in these later V2 sentences. It is also a strong prediction of this account that embedded V2 should be possible, and remarkably, this is borne out: examples of embedded V2 do exist in Old Irish. In sum, the proposal that the conjunct paradigm of Old Irish verbs indicates the projection of CP has considerable evidence in its favor and provides the basis for an explanation of a broad range of seemingly unrelated facts.
Begin, Osborn. 1938. On the Syntax of the Verb in Old Irish. Ériu 12: 197-214.
Doherty, Cathal. 1998. Residual Verb Second in the Syntax of Early Irish. 18th Harvard Celtic Colloquium.
McCloskey, James. 1996. Verb Movement in Irish. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 14.1
Potsdam, Eric. 1996. Syntactic Issues in the English Imperative. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Santa Cruz.
About the PLC23 Committee
Previously held Penn Linguistics Colloquium: PLC22 (1998), PLC21 (1997)
Penn Department of Linguistics
University of Pennsylvania